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    Chapter 30

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    Chapter 31
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    A time came when Madame Raquin, in order to escape the sufferings she
    endured, thought of starving herself to death. She had reached the
    end of her courage, she could no longer support the martyrdom that the
    presence of the two murderers imposed on her, she longed to find supreme
    relief in death. Each day her anguish grew more keen, when Therese
    embraced her, and when Laurent took her in his arms to carry her along
    like a child. She determined on freeing herself from these clasps
    and caresses that caused her such horrible disgust. As she had not
    sufficient life left within her to permit of her avenging her son, she
    preferred to be entirely dead, and to leave naught in the hands of the
    assassins but a corpse that could feel nothing, and with which they
    could do as they pleased.

    For two days she refused all nourishment, employing her remaining
    strength to clench her teeth or to eject anything that Therese succeeded
    in introducing into her mouth. Therese was in despair. She was asking
    herself at the foot of which post she should go to weep and repent, when
    her aunt would be no longer there. She kept up an interminable discourse
    to prove to Madame Raquin that she should live. She wept, she even
    became angry, bursting into her former fits of rage, opening the jaw of
    the paralysed woman as you open that of an animal which resists. Madame
    Raquin held out, and an odious scene ensued.

    Laurent remained absolutely neutral and indifferent. He was astonished
    at the efforts of Therese to prevent the impotent old woman committing
    suicide. Now that the presence of the old lady had become useless to
    them he desired her death. He would not have killed her, but as she
    wished to die, he did not see the use of depriving her of the means to
    do so.

    "But, let her be!" he shouted to his wife. "It will be a good riddance.
    We shall, perhaps, be happier when she is no longer here."

    This remark repeated several times in the hearing of Madame Raquin,
    caused her extraordinary emotion. She feared that the hope expressed
    by Laurent might be realised, and that after her death the couple would
    enjoy calm and happiness. And she said to herself that it would be
    cowardly to die, that she had no right to go away before she had seen
    the end of the sinister adventure. Then, only, could she descend into
    darkness, to say to Camille:

    "You are avenged."

    The idea of suicide became oppressive, when she all at once reflected
    that she would sink into the grave ignorant as to what had happened
    to the two murderers of her son. There, she would lie in the cold
    and silent earth, eternally tormented by uncertainty concerning the
    punishment of her tormentors. To thoroughly enjoy the slumber of death,
    she must be hushed to rest by the sweet delight of vengeance, she must
    carry away with her a dream of satisfied hatred, a dream that would last
    throughout eternity. So she took the food her niece presented to her,
    and consented to live on.

    Apart from this, it was easy for her to perceive that the climax could
    not be far off. Each day the position of the married couple became
    more strained and unbearable. A crash that would smash everything was
    imminent. At every moment, Therese and Laurent started up face to face
    in a more threatening manner. It was no longer at nighttime, alone,
    that they suffered from their intimacy; entire days were passed amidst
    anxiety and harrowing shocks. It was one constant scene of pain and
    terror. They lived in a perfect pandemonium, fighting, rendering all
    they did and said bitter and cruel, seeking to fling one another to the
    bottom of the abyss which they felt beneath their feet, and falling into
    it together.

    Ideas of separation had, indeed, occurred to both of them. Each had
    thought of flight, of seeking some repose far from this Arcade of the
    Pont Neuf where the damp and filth seemed adapted to their desolated
    life. But they dared not, they could not run away. It seemed impossible
    for them to avoid reviling each other, to avoid remaining there to
    suffer and cause pain. They proved obstinate in their hatred and
    cruelty. A sort of repulsion and attraction separated and kept them
    together at the same time. They behaved in the identical manner of two
    persons who, after quarrelling, wish to part, and who, nevertheless,
    continue returning to shout out fresh insults at one another.

    Moreover, material obstacles stood in the way of flight. What were
    they to do with the impotent woman? What could be said to the Thursday
    evening guests? If they fled, these people would, perhaps, suspect
    something. At this thought, they imagined they were being pursued and
    dragged to the guillotine. So they remained where they were through
    cowardice, wretchedly dragging out their lives amidst the horror of
    their surroundings.

    During the morning and afternoon, when Laurent was absent, Therese went
    from the dining-room to the shop in anxiety and trouble, at a loss to
    know what to do to fill up the void in her existence that daily became
    more pronounced. When not kneeling at the feet of Madame Raquin or
    receiving blows and insults from her husband, she had no occupation. As
    soon as she was seated alone in the shop, she became dejected, watching
    with a doltish expression, the people passing through the dirty, dark
    gallery. She felt ready to die of sadness in the middle of this gloomy
    vault, which had the odour of a cemetery, and ended by begging Suzanne
    to come and pass entire days with her, in the hope that the presence of
    this poor, gentle, pale creature might calm her.

    Suzanne accepted her offer with delight; she continued to feel a sort of
    respectful friendship for Therese, and had long desired to come and work
    with her, while Olivier was at his office. Bringing her embroidery with
    her, she took the vacant chair of Madame Raquin behind the counter.

    From that day Therese rather neglected her aunt. She went upstairs
    less frequently to weep on her knees and kiss the deathlike face of the
    invalid. She had something else to do. She made efforts to listen with
    interest to the dilatory gossip of Suzanne, who spoke of her home, and
    of the trivialities of her monotonous life. This relieved Therese of her
    own thoughts. Sometimes she caught herself paying attention to nonsense
    that brought a bitter smile to her face.

    By degrees, she lost all her customers. Since her aunt had been confined
    to her armchair upstairs, she had let the shop go from bad to worse,
    abandoning the goods to dust and damp. A smell of mildew hung in the
    atmosphere, spiders came down from the ceiling, the floor was but rarely

    But what put the customers to flight was the strange way in which
    Therese sometimes welcomed them. When she happened to be upstairs,
    receiving blows from Laurent or agitated by a shock of terror, and the
    bell at the shop door tinkled imperiously, she had to go down, barely
    taking time to do up her hair or brush away the tears. On such occasions
    she served the persons awaiting her roughly; sometimes she even spared
    herself the trouble of serving, answering from the top of the staircase,
    that she no longer kept what was asked for. This kind of off-hand
    behaviour, was not calculated to retain custom.

    The little work-girls of the quarter, who were used to the sweet
    amiability of Madame Raquin, were driven away by the harshness and wild
    looks of Therese. When the latter took Suzanne with her to keep her
    company, the defection became complete. To avoid being disturbed
    in their gossip, the two young woman managed to drive away the few
    remaining purchasers who visited the shop. Henceforth, the mercery
    business ceased to bring in a sou towards the household expenses, and it
    became necessary to encroach on the capital of forty thousand francs and

    Sometimes, Therese absented herself the entire afternoon. No one knew
    where she went. Her reason for having Suzanne with her was no doubt
    partly for the purpose of securing company but also to mind the shop,
    while she was away. When she returned in the evening, worn out, her
    eyelids heavy with exhaustion, it was to find the little wife of Olivier
    still behind the counter, bowed down, with a vague smile on her lips, in
    the same attitude as she had left her five hours previously.

    Therese had a bad fright about five months after her marriage to
    Laurent. She found out she was pregnant and detested the thought of
    having a child of Laurent's. She had the fear that she would give birth
    to a drowned body. She thought that she could feel inside herself a
    soft, decomposing corpse. No matter what, she had to rid herself of this
    child. She did not tell Laurent. One day she cruelly provoked him and
    turned her stomach towards him, hoping to receive a kick. He kicked her
    and she let him go on kicking her in the stomach until she thought
    she would die. The next day her wish was fulfilled and she had a

    Laurent also led a frightful existence. The days seemed insupportably
    long; each brought the same anguish, the same heavy weariness which
    overwhelmed him at certain hours with crushing monotony and regularity.
    He dragged on his life, terrified every night by the recollections of
    the day, and the expectation of the morrow. He knew that henceforth, all
    his days would resemble one another, and bring him equal suffering. And
    he saw the weeks, months and years gloomily and implacably awaiting him,
    coming one after the other to fall upon him and gradually smother him.

    When there is no hope in the future, the present appears atrociously
    bitter. Laurent no longer resisted, he became lumpish, abandoning
    himself to the nothingness that was already gaining possession of his
    being. Idleness was killing him. In the morning he went out, without
    knowing where to go, disgusted at the thought of doing what he had done
    on the previous day, and compelled, in spite of himself, to do it again.
    He went to his studio by habit, by mania.

    This room, with its grey walls, whence he could see naught but a bare
    square of sky, filled him with mournful sadness. He grovelled on the
    divan heavy in thought and with pendent arms. He dared not touch a
    brush. He had made fresh attempts at painting, but only to find on each
    occasion, the head of Camille appear jeering on the canvas. So as not to
    go out of his mind, he ended by throwing his colour-box into a corner,
    and imposing the most absolute idleness on himself. This obligatory
    laziness weighed upon him terribly.

    In the afternoon, he questioned himself in distress to find out what
    he should do. For half an hour, he remained on the pavement in the Rue
    Mazarine, thinking and hesitating as to how he could divert himself. He
    rejected the idea of returning to the studio, and invariably decided
    on going down the Rue Guenegaud, to walk along the quays. And, until
    evening, he went along, dazed and seized with sudden shudders whenever
    he looked at the Seine. Whether in his studio or in the streets, his
    dejection was the same. The following day he began again. He passed
    the morning on his divan, and dragged himself along the quays in the
    afternoon. This lasted for months, and might last for years.

    Occasionally Laurent reflected that he had killed Camille so as to
    do nothing ever afterwards, and now that he did nothing, he was quite
    astonished to suffer so much. He would have liked to force himself to be
    happy. He proved to his own satisfaction, that he did wrong to suffer,
    that he had just attained supreme felicity, consisting in crossing his
    arms, and that he was an idiot not to enjoy this bliss in peace. But his
    reasoning exploded in the face of facts. He was constrained to confess,
    at the bottom of his heart, that this idleness rendered his anguish
    the more cruel, by leaving him every hour of his life to ponder on the
    despair and deepen its incurable bitterness. Laziness, that brutish
    existence which had been his dream, proved his punishment. At moments,
    he ardently hoped for some occupation to draw him from his thoughts.
    Then he lost all energy, relapsing beneath the weight of implacable
    fatality that bound his limbs so as to more surely crush him.

    In truth, he only found some relief when beating Therese, at night. This
    brutality alone relieved him of his enervated anguish.

    But his keenest suffering, both physical and moral, came from the bite
    Camille had given him in the neck. At certain moments, he imagined that
    this scar covered the whole of his body. If he came to forget the past,
    he all at once fancied he felt a burning puncture, that recalled the
    murder both to his frame and mind.

    When under the influence of emotion, he could not stand before
    a looking-glass without noticing this phenomenon which he had so
    frequently remarked and which always terrified him; the blood flew to
    his neck, purpling the scar, which then began to gnaw the skin.

    This sort of wound that lived upon him, which became active, flushed,
    and biting at the slightest trouble, frightened and tortured him. He
    ended by believing that the teeth of the drowned man had planted an
    insect there which was devouring him. The part of his neck where the
    scar appeared, seemed to him to no longer belong to his body; it
    was like foreign flesh that had been stuck in this place, a piece of
    poisoned meat that was rotting his own muscles.

    In this manner, he carried the living and devouring recollection of his
    crime about with him everywhere. When he beat Therese, she endeavoured
    to scratch the spot, and sometimes dug her nails into it making him howl
    with pain. She generally pretended to sob, as soon as she caught sight
    of the bite, so as to make it more insufferable to Laurent. All her
    revenge for his brutality, consisted in martyrising him in connection
    with this bite.

    While shaving, he had frequently been tempted to give himself a gash
    in the neck, so as to make the marks of the teeth of the drowned man
    disappear. When, standing before the mirror, he raised his chin and
    perceived the red spot beneath the white lather, he at once flew into a
    rage, and rapidly brought the razor to his neck, to cut right into the
    flesh. But the sensations of the cold steel against his skin always
    brought him to his senses, and caused him to feel so faint that he was
    obliged to seat himself, and wait until he had recovered sufficient
    courage to continue shaving.

    He only issued from his torpor at night to fall into blind and puerile
    fits of anger. When tired of quarreling with Therese and beating her,
    he would kick the walls like a child, and look for something he could
    break. This relieved him.

    He had a particular dislike for the tabby cat Francois who, as soon as
    he appeared, sought refuge on the knees of Madame Raquin. If Laurent had
    not yet killed the animal, it was because he dared not take hold of
    him. The cat looked at him with great round eyes that were diabolical
    in their fixedness. He wondered what these eyes which never left him,
    wanted; and he ended by having regular fits of terror, and imagining all
    sorts of ridiculous things.

    When at table--at no matter what moment, in the middle of a quarrel or
    of a long silence--he happened, all at once, to look round, and perceive
    Francois examining him with a harsh, implacable stare, he turned pale
    and lost his head. He was on the point of saying to the cat:

    "Heh! Why don't you speak? Tell me what it is you want with me."

    When he could crush his paw or tail, he did so in affrighted joy, the
    mewing of the poor creature giving him vague terror, as though he
    heard a human cry of pain. Laurent, in fact, was afraid of Francois,
    particularly since the latter passed his time on the knees of the
    impotent old lady, as if in the centre of an impregnable fortress,
    whence he could with impunity set his eyes on his enemy. The murderer
    of Camille established a vague resemblance between this irritated animal
    and the paralysed woman, saying to himself that the cat, like Madame
    Raquin, must know about the crime and would denounce him, if he ever
    found a tongue.

    At last, one night, Francois looked at Laurent so fixedly, that the
    latter, irritated to the last pitch, made up his mind to put an end to
    the annoyance. He threw the window of the dining-room wide open, and
    advancing to where the cat was seated, grasped him by the skin at the
    back of the neck. Madame Raquin understood, and two big tears
    rolled down her cheeks. The cat began to swear, and stiffen himself,
    endeavouring to turn round and bite the hand that grasped him. But
    Laurent held fast. He whirled the cat round two or three times in the
    air, and then sent him flying with all the strength of his arm, against
    the great dark wall opposite. Francois went flat against it, and
    breaking his spine, fell upon the glass roof of the arcade. All night
    the wretched beast dragged himself along the gutter mewing hoarsely,
    while Madame Raquin wept over him almost as much as she had done over
    Camille. Therese had an atrocious attack of hysterics, while the wailing
    of the cat sounded sinisterly, in the gloom below the windows.

    Laurent soon had further cause for anxiety. He became alarmed at a
    certain change he observed in the attitude of his wife.

    Therese became sombre and taciturn. She no longer lavished effusions
    of repentance and grateful kisses on Madame Raquin. In presence of the
    paralysed woman, she resumed her manner of frigid cruelty and egotistic
    indifference. It seemed as though she had tried remorse, and finding no
    relief had turned her attention to another remedy. Her sadness was no
    doubt due to her inability to calm her life.

    She observed the impotent old woman with a kind of disdain, as a useless
    thing that could no longer even serve her for consolation. She now only
    bestowed on her the necessary attention to prevent her dying of hunger.
    From this moment she dragged herself about the house in silence and
    dejection. She multiplied her absences from the shop, going out as
    frequently as three and four times a week.

    It was this change in her mode of life, that surprised and alarmed
    Laurent. He fancied that her remorse had taken another form, and was now
    displayed by this mournful weariness he noticed in her. This weariness
    seemed to him more alarming than the chattering despair she had
    overwhelmed him with previously. She no longer spoke, she no longer
    quarrelled with him, she seemed to consign everything to the depths of
    her being. He would rather have heard her exhausting her endurance than
    see her keep in this manner to herself. He feared that one day she
    would be choking with anguish, and to obtain relief, would go and relate
    everything to a priest or an examining magistrate.

    Then these numerous absences of Therese had frightful significance in
    his eyes. He thought she went to find a confidant outside, that she was
    preparing her treason. On two occasions he tried to follow her, and lost
    her in the streets. He then prepared to watch her again. A fixed idea
    got into his head: Therese, driven to extremities by suffering, was
    about to make disclosures, and he must gag her, he must arrest her
    confession in her throat.
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